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Birds of a Different Feather

Nicholas Alfonse – 1/25/10

In light of the New York Jets’ recent playoff run, many analysts and fans began to compare their performance to the 2007 New York Giants. However, just because both teams were considered underdogs in nearly every game doesn’t mean that they were the same by any stretch of the imagination. There are many glaring differences between the two teams, and for Jets fans to consider their team to be nearly as dominant or effective as the 2007 Giants is misleading.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the New York Jets defense this year was the lack of pass rush from their defensive linemen. Rex Ryan’s team lived and died by the blitz this year, specifically coming from the secondary. Constantly blitzing forced the team to gamble more than they should have, and allowed some big plays downfield, especially against talented quarterbacks such as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The 2007 Giants were nearly the exact opposite, as their defensive line was the most ferocious pass rush in the league, causing havoc and harassing quarterbacks all game long. They led the league in sacks with 53 on the year, 32 of which came from their linemen Umenyiora, Strahan, and Tuck. The Jets however, were ranked 18th in sacks this year, with only 32. This type of supremacy in the pass rush made their defense far more dynamic, allowing them to be effective without blitzing every other down.

Another striking difference is the offensive performance during the postseason. While the Jets were at a disadvantage having a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning was blossoming right before everyone’s eyes. Brian Schottenheimer seemed afraid at times to allow Sanchez the leeway to throw the football, stubbornly insisting on rushing even when Indianapolis was shutting them down during the championship game. Eli completed 72 passes for 854 yards, 6 touchdowns and only one interception during the 2007 playoffs. He was beginning to protect the football when it mattered most, giving the Giants every opportunity to win that year. The rushing attack also was far more balanced, functioning as it had during the regular season. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs split the carries, each ending up with around 200 yards on the postseason. The Jets however, seemed to work differently, as Thomas Jones (3rd in rushing during the regular season) nearly disappeared completely in the playoffs, leaving all of the work for Shonn Greene. This was effective for a while, but once Greene was out of the Colts game with an injury, their running game completely fell apart.

The final, yet most obvious difference is the Giants actually succeeded in making it all the way! Before the playoffs even started, people were giving out accolades to Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez as if they had already accomplished something. They won two games at the end of the season that were practically given to them by the Colts and Bengals, which allowed them a shot at the playoffs in the first place. The Giants were also going up against the Green Bay Packers in subzero temperatures for the NFC Championship game, followed by the undefeated and seemingly unstoppable New England Patriots. No one gave the underdogs a chance in either of these games, whereas nearly everyone and their pet llama seemed to be picking the Jets to somehow upset MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Jets deserve credit for their quality performances in the playoffs this year, but next time let’s wait for them to win something before making comparisons to one of the greatest Super Bowl victories of all time.

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